November 2014 Financial Update

In November, our spending was very average and our net worth went up very slightly by $8,000.  With $2,764 of income in November, we barely covered our $2,640 in spending.  November marked the start of a major construction project on our house and most of the month’s spending was devoted to material purchases.



It’s almost not worth mentioning the paltry $85 in interest and investment income which came from a single bond holding and our growing money market balance.  However, huge investment income is just around the corner in late December when many of our mutual funds and ETFs pay out all the dividends accumulated for the whole year.  For all of 2014, I’m expecting to surpass our $22,300 of dividend income during 2013.  We are at $16,000 through the end of November, so we aren’t too far away from last year’s total.

Blog income, shown as “other income” in the chart, was up slightly compared to previous months at $654.  Freelance writing (“consulting” income in the chart) at $375 was higher than normal due to receiving two months of payments in November.  I expect to make around $600-800 over the long term from blogging and freelance writing, and November’s online income exceeded $1,000 so I can’t complain.

Mrs. Root of Good is still working, hence the salary income.  This income will likely cease some time in the next year, and possibly within a few months depending on when Mrs. RoG joins me in early retirement.  Last month’s post on the “two cent issue” explained one of the factors driving her toward early retirement.

“Deposits” of $92 includes $80 from selling a queen size mattress and box spring on Craigslist.  I know I priced the mattress set very low because I had multiple offers on it within 12 hours of listing it.  Fortunately, the transaction closed very quickly without a lot of effort from me.

I’m always curious whether putting things on Craigslist is an efficient use of time or whether I should just toss stuff out or put it on the curb for free. Right now I’m 10.5 hours into photographing, researching prices, and listing around 25 different items for a total asking price of roughly $800.  Since I’ve only made $80 for 10.5 hours of work, that equates to a pitiful minimum wage level $7.61 per hour.  However, if I can clear another $600 from the items still for sale and spend another 4.5 hours dealing with buyers, that will work out to $45 per hour of effort (tax free!).  Let’s see how optimistic I am.  And if you’re local to Raleigh, NC and want a crib and mattress, portable cribs, luggage, a queen size mattress (no box springs with this one), a broken bike, a barely used fondue pot, a large painting of Angkor Wat, or any variety of coffee tables or end tables, get in touch with me and let’s make a deal.




If you’re interested in tracking your income and expenses like I do, then check out Personal Capital (it’s free!).  All of our savings and spending accounts (including checking, money market, and five credit cards) are all linked and updated in real time through Personal Capital.  We have accounts all over the place, and Personal Capital makes it really easy to check on everything at one time.

Personal Capital is also a solid tool for investment management.  Keeping track of our entire investment portfolio takes two clicks.  If you haven’t signed up for the free Personal Capital service, check it out today (review here).



Now let’s look at November expenses:



At $2,640 for November, our expenses were deceptively similar to our budgeted $2,667 monthly spending.

The largest single expense in November was $1,682 for ten new vinyl replacement windows.  Our 42 year old original single pane windows are reaching the end of their functional life and it’s time to upgrade.  The new windows will be easier to clean, look nicer, and allow us to open all of them easily during temperate parts of the year to reduce heating and cooling bills.

We found a great contractor to install new vinyl siding.  When asked about installing windows, he offered to provide the windows at a cost of $225 per window.  He also suggested that we could buy our own windows and possibly save some money that way.  I managed to get almost all of the windows with higher energy efficiency ratings compared to the windows specified by the contractor.  I’ll never know whether the contractor’s windows would have been “better” than the windows we purchased, but after researching the windows at length I’m feeling good about them.

The contractor will be installing the ten windows, replacing the original 42 year old masonite fiber board siding with some high end vinyl (Certainteed Monogram 46 for the curious), and covering all trim work with vinyl siding or aluminum wrap.  The initial contract was around $6,500.

Since commencing work, one of the workers decided to stick his leg through what turns out to be roof decking material rotten from a known leak.  The worker is fine, but the roof isn’t. To get the roof into good condition will add another $400-500 to the total bill to include replacing about 100 square feet of shingles, one sheet of plywood, and install weatherproof membrane and flashing tied into new siding.  Hopefully that will fix the leak that reappears every few years.

Assuming there isn’t a lot of other additional work required, the total for the siding, window, and roofing project should come in around $9,000.  In my post on “budgeting for home repairs“, I planned on $4,000 for a new roof every 20 years, $4,250 for new doors and windows every 30 years, and $1,500 for exterior painting every eight years.  With the new vinyl siding (which wasn’t in my original home repair budget), I can forego most of the $1,500 for painting every eight years.  The siding should last for at least 20 years, and possibly many more.  The roof repair means I’ll get another ten years out of my roof before needing a full replacement.  The window replacement is cheaper than my per-window assumptions.  Overall, my actual costs were roughly in line with what I budgeted.

We spent a little more than average on groceries at $588 for the month.  The increase is due to lumping in a few Christmas gifts picked up at Aldi or Walmart while shopping for groceries plus shopping for our big family Thanksgiving meal.  We also stocked the freezer with around 30 pounds of beef, pork and chicken while it was on sale.  A well stocked freezer also removes the there’s nothing to eat!” excuse that leads to restaurant dining. December groceries will probably be lower than average since we started the month with a full fridge, freezer, and pantry (and some delicious Turkey Day leftovers awaiting us in the freezer).

At $84, we stretched our restaurant spending very far.  For $84, we bought Chinese take out for the family three times, we ate at Taco Bell a few times (my fast food weakness), and tried out a new Venezuelan arepa restaurant (it was good, not great).  Mrs. RootofGood grabbed a Starbucks and a lunch in the cafeteria at her office.  I went out with a friend to a fresh burrito place.  That’s a lot of eating for $84.

Other spending included some blood work at the doctor for me ($7) and a birthday present for our kids’ friend ($16).  Gasoline/tolls ($106) and utilities ($118) were typical.

We budgeted $32,000 per year for retirement, so eleven months of spending should be $29,333.  At $24,200 year to date spending, we are roughly five thousand dollars under budget for the year.

However, December will be a very expensive month.  I’ll be writing a $7,000 check to our contractor once the project wraps up in the second week of December.  Property taxes ($1,550) are due by January 6, so they may get paid in December.  And we might spend a little bit more on Christmas gifts (it really depends on who’s naughty and who’s nice).  My guess is that we’ll wrap up the year a couple thousand dollars over our $32,000 budget which is pretty great considering the almost $9,000 in renovation expenses for our house.


Net Worth: $1,451,000 (+$8,000)

In terms of net worth, November almost put me to sleep.  You can see in the graph below how little fluctuation occurred throughout the month.  Investments went up very slightly and didn’t have any wild swings like September or October of this year.  I’m okay with that.  Sleep inducing boredom due to very little volatility is a good thing.




Looking toward the end of the year, I’ll be reviewing my 11 tips to finish the year strong.  I plan to put in the maximum contributions to our IRAs ($5,500 each) and offset all of my blogging and freelancing income by making the maximum allowable contribution to my solo 401k based on earnings during 2014.  I can make these contributions during 2014 or next year before April 15, 2015.



What was your biggest financial move in November?  Any big end of year plans?



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  1. New windows are a wonderful thing! We have fairly new, insulated windows in our house and have been so pleased with how much lower we’re able to set our thermostat (vs. our previous home’s antique draft-mongers). Sounds like all of your home improvements are great investments for the future. We had a lot of home repairs crop up in November as well, and I’m hoping December will be a bit more stable on that front. Congrats on being under budget for the year this month–relish the moment :)!

    1. I’m not sold on the energy saving benefits of the windows, since it’ll take a lot of energy savings to pay $2300 for the window component of the job (we pay only ~$1000/yr for heating/cooling). Our old windows had good storm windows so it sort of acted like insulated dual pane windows (or maybe 1.5 pane windows lol). The new windows have low E coating and some other awesome stuff that’s supposed to keep heat in during the winter and keep sun out during the summer. We’ll see how that works out for us. The nice thing will be having nice looking windows and not crusty old over-painted windows that only opened half way or were painted shut. And we can easily clean the new windows (double hung and they open to the inside for easy cleaning). I’m still putting the windows in the “luxury” category, but we’ll see if they can shave off $200-300 of the heating/cooling bill to earn their keep. 🙂

      Yes, it’s great to be under budget going into this project. In the next five years, I can’t really see any major repairs or big ticket items other than a new(er) car, unless we do an optional kitchen or bath upgrade (and we have plenty of money in the portfolio to afford it).

  2. Your renovations budget is so low considering all the things you are getting! As always, it really pays to do some research – another benefit of being “retired” since you have the time to do that. Most people pick up a phone, call a couple of contractors and go with whatever they recommend, without bothering to do any research and getting screwed in the process.

    1. I should write an article on the process. I started with 9 contractors, asked all to come out and give me a quote. 3 showed up with prices of $5k-$8.1k and that ranged from narrow scope with potential for lots of extras while others included some extras (leak repair, flashing, etc). The $5k guy had extremely cheap materials and when asked to quote a higher end product the price jumped $1800 ($800 higher than the $6k guy I went with).

      Then I spent probably 10-20 hours researching different construction methods, materials, and issues for siding and windows. I checked out cut sheets from the contractor and compared them to other manufacturer’s products. This way, I know what I’m getting, I know roughly what the installation process is, and can call out any deficiencies in materials or construction methodology as it occurs. I figure my efforts to get the optimal contractor and buy some materials on my own will end up saving me thousands of dollars and result in a higher quality end result. On a per hour basis, my research and planning saved me maybe $100/hr. It would be challenging to focus this much time on the construction project if I was still working.

      Oddly enough, this type of construction administration and inspection work is a part of what I did professionally (although in heavy construction and IT construction related areas).

      After looking at how many man hours they are putting into the job, I think it would take me 250-300 hours to do the job myself. I think the contractor’s $7k fee includes at least $3.5-4k worth of materials. So the value proposition for me is to hire the contractor. I would be making only $10/hr if I did the work myself, and there are plenty of lower hanging fruit opportunities to “make” more than that doing other things.

  3. If you can buy all new windows for your house and still have more income than expenses for a month, I would say you are doing pretty well! I need to get some bids on covering our patio, but just don’t have the time to meet with as many contractors as you did without taking a vacation day or two. If I take a day off, I would rather go do something fun with the kids than meet with contractors!

    1. Meeting with contractors is a hassle and takes a while to get them all lined up and able to come out to your house. A few of them were available on Saturday, but I ended up meeting with all of the ones I saw during the week. I wouldn’t want to spend a day off lining up contractors, either since it isn’t particularly fun. If you do pursue hiring a contractor, get a feel for what exactly you want the contractor to do (materials, details, scope, etc) and that will help with interactions with different contractors. Some might not even want to bid on a job if it’s small, so that might save you some time of not having to deal with a contractor that isn’t interested in doing the work (and will throw out a high number, not really caring if they get the work).

  4. I’m glad you included the part about your time vs. the contractors. My initial thought was why did you not do this yourself. It would have been much fun I’m sure!

    It doesn’t pencil out though in your case. Just for fun did you keep track of the contractor installation time. My guess would be that for your sized home it will be less than 60 hours for the entire job. I used to build homes and single story 1700 ft home generally took around 50 hours for a very experienced single person.

    Of course, I always figure that pros are 4 times as fast as me, so I’m guessing the job would be 250 hours for myself.

    1. So far, the crew has averaged 3.2 people at roughly 8 hours of solid work per day for 2 days. So let’s say 51 man hours to date. So far, they have finished 2 of 5 faces (the smallest two), probably 400 square feet total so far. There are angles on the gable and where it fits over the 1st story roof, so a little complex. They also finished the small roof repair. They tore off two gutters and have reattached one so far. They are doing a full tear off of the old masonite siding and putting up insulation before installing the new siding. Also tearing off some trim and cutting ventilation holes in soffits before installing the vinyl trim and aluminum fascia wrapping. They haven’t even touched the windows yet (other than unscrewing some of the storm windows). I figure at this rate they will end up with around 120-140 man hours by the time they are 100% finished. Which is why I figure it will take me 250 (at least double what the pros can do). It’s a lot of work with a lot of details. If it was just putting up J-channel and siding and soffit/fascia wrap on a new install 1 story with simple geometry, 50-70 hours for a pro seems about right.

      All four of the guys that I’ve seen working (including the owner of the small company) seem to be moving pretty quick and look experienced. It’s a 2 story split level house, 1700 square feet of siding material.

      The contractor also threw in free tear off of the old siding after I told him about other quotes I received. I guess he wanted the business. Then I opted out of window wrapping, and he threw that in too. That’s around $1500 of free labor at his rates, making the DIY an even worse proposition in my case.

  5. Justin,
    I have been a silent reader for quiet some time. I came across your blog through Money Mustache forum. You are an inspiration to enginerds like me working towards FI and hopefully ER. Keep up the good work man!

    1. Hey, thanks for commenting finally! I figure there are a thousand other silent readers lurking out there and it’s always good to see that people are enjoying reading what I’m producing. Keep enginerding forward! 🙂

  6. I like how you rationalize whether to do the work yourself, or contract with others to do so. I am doing much of the same since I early retired. If it only saves me a little to do a job myself, or it involves expertise I do not have, I will contract for it. Oftentimes others have access to lower contractor pricing anyhow so it becomes prohibitively expensive to do it yourself. Then again I will sometimes do a job myself not because of the savings, but because I feel I can do it right while also do a better job. I guess that is the pride of ownership aspect.

    Great job, and thanks for the comments as well.

    1. I almost started down the road of DIY on these projects then realized I can afford to hire it out and not worry about pinching pennies. My contractor has the trailer for hauling debris. He has the ladders and scaffolding. He has the specialized tools (like the aluminum forming tool that’s supposedly $1000+). He must have been able to get good bulk pricing or he’s paying his employees nothing.

      I tend to tackle the smaller jobs where I’m pretty sure it would cost a lot just to get someone to come out here. Appliance repair, small plumbing stuff, small carpentry, painting, that type of stuff. If it’s dozens of man hours, it probably pays to spend time finding a reasonably priced pro unless you really want to do the work yourself or can’t find competent crews.

      And some things it’s better to just do it yourself to make sure it’s done right the way you want it.

      1. Thanks for the info. It appears like a lot of work. And yes, my guess is he pays his workers very little. Unfortunately that is the nature of the low bidder game. I used to feel real bad in the home building business how little the sub’s workers were paid. I had lots of workers with ankle braclets on my framing crews. It is non union cut throat around here. Very disturbing, but I had no choice if I didn’t want to loose money on every home I built.

        1. Unions are basically non-existent here as well. I assume that is the big difference in costs between different regions of the country. I’ve seen people tossing around numbers from the northeast where there are a lot unions and the rate for roofing or siding can be double what it is “down south”. Around here, the upside is that “regular” people can afford to hire contractors and live in bigger and nicer houses, with the downside being construction laborers don’t make a ton of money. I find myself on the winning side of the bargain this time around.

  7. Sounds like you got a great deal on the windows. We just bought a house that has the double pane energy efficient windows, but when we did an energy audit I found out we have a couple of single pane glass windows that are fine, but could also be safety hazards. So I have to figure out what replacing that will cost and include a future home repair cost as part of my budget. So far I am just saving about 2% of the house’s value for future repairs/improvements, but I am not sure that is enough. This home ownership stuff is complicated.

    1. You can measure them and check out prices at Lowe’s or Home Depot online (for the material part of it). For labor, if it’s just a few windows you’ll probably pay a premium since it’s a small job. Maybe $100-300 per window for installation depending on complexity. Our windows were around $240 each at Lowe’s before the discounts (15% off sale, 10% coupon, 6% off gift cards used to pay for them).

      2% isn’t a bad assumption for annualized repair/replacement costs. That should allow decent maintenance without postponing important stuff and won’t force you to go for the cheapest of everything.

      Yes, this homeownership stuff is complicated. And fun. 😉

  8. Enjoying your blog since I found it. We are in the middle of a reno project ourselves and I think the total is going to come is at $50k. This includes two major bathroom gut jobs (ensuite getting a nice new 60 x 48 shower plus a great huge freestanding tub) plus 430 sf of very nice wide plank hickory wood flooring in our family room. I appreciated reading how you think of what its costing by calculating “man-hours” and I was just doing the same.

    We typically spend $10k per year on improvements and our house is in great shape but it seems the list of wants never decreases! Good news is we paid the mortgage off a few years ago and are set up for early retirement in a few years.

    1. Wow, $50k! Our whole house is only worth about $150k, so that would be quite a project for us! Of course we still have the original 1972 stove top and some wallpaper from the 80’s. It’s almost vintage right? 🙂 In 11 years of owning this house, this is our first time hiring a contractor, although my in laws (who are in construction) have helped out in the past.

      The main thing is that you’re on the path to early retirement and know what you value and what you want to spend money on, therefore you can afford it. I’ll just be glad to have the hammering and sawing noises gone in a few more days.

      1. We paid $580 for it 8 years ago and could get $900k for it now. I would sell it and move to a smaller town and less house but we do like it here and can walk our kids to school and have great neighbours. As I mentioned its paid for and the value is less that 1/3 of our net worth. Investment portfolio is up over $200k this year and growing fast!

        1. Was most of the appreciation the housing market going up or because you are fixing it up? Our house was worth about $140k when we bought it 11 years ago, and we might be able to get $150k or $160k with a few small fixes.

          1. Mostly general real estate growth in our area but we are constantly making improvments. Things like a new deck and aluminum railing, sprinkler system, flagstone front patio, new garage doors, lots of landscaping, new pool equipment, new roof shingles, new appliances, etc. It never ends! At least we like where we live and never do any project unless we are paying cash and only after all investment accounts are maxed for the year.

            1. Paying cash with excess funds after maxing retirement accounts is smart. And if you can afford it without sacrificing your retirement plans, and you love where you live, why not?

  9. Nothing major to report on financially as things just keep humming along. I’ve been selling stuff on Craigslist too and know when I under price something based on the emails. It’s tough sometimes because some items have no listings to see, so it’s just a best guess as to what to sell for. But at the end of the day, I’d rather just sell it and get rid of it.

    1. I struggle with that too. I think I’ve lost a couple of sales this week over $5. I’d rather have the junk gone and some cash instead of still having the junk sitting in my house. Note to self: don’t be so aggressive if someone makes an offer. 🙂

  10. I continue to be impressed w/ your average utility costs. I live in the Raleigh area as well albeit bigger square footage (so utilities should be a bit higher). Our electric/gas alone for Nov ran about $200 w/ family of 4. Best month of the year our electric/gas run about $100/mo. I assume your utilities include electric/gas, water, internet, and inexpensive cell phones? others?

    1. Always good to hear from local people.

      My November bill for gas and electric was $25 and $51 respectively, and that’s about as low as they get all year. December gas and electric are $72 and probably $50 (haven’t received electric yet). I took a look at our usage for the past 12 months. $1,119 electric and $796 natural gas. That’s $1,915 for energy for 1 year, or $160/month. Duke Progress for electric and PSNC for gas. 42 year old house with zero shade trees. Thermostat is between 73 and 76 in summer and 65-69 in winter.

      My utilities I post on my monthly updates includes whatever I pay each month. I often prepay utilities in order to meet credit card spending requirements. Internet goes under “cable/satellite” just because it’s the cable company (though we don’t pay for cable). It’s $35/mo. Water is the killer – $92 to $100/month. Phone is only a few dollars a month for VOIP service, plus we spend $10 per year on cell phones. My service is free through freedompop and Mrs. RoG has a phone on T-Mobile prepaid that renews for $10/year. So our total utilities are around $300/month on average.

    1. I wish I could say I’m making money by selling groceries. It’s actually how credit card refunds appear in Personal Capital. I think it was a $6 refund at one grocery store where they overcharged me on 6 bags of dried beans (= free beans somehow). And $23 from the Thanksgiving turkey purchase where they didn’t give me the $0.47/lb price advertised.

      I wish it would appear as a reduction on the “expense” side because it’s a bit clunky to have it show up under “income” since it’s really an offset against other expenses in the grocery category.

  11. Yikes, December is going to be an expensive month for you. It happens. Looking forward to hearing more about Mrs. ROG’s plan. Net worth is looking good.

    1. December will be expensive, but the home repairs are basically deferred maintenance from when we bought the house 11 years ago. So I’m feeling pretty good about it in the grand scheme of big homeowner bills.

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